You’ve probably seen plenty of typographical throw pillows before; they’re pretty trendy and there’s lots of tutorials out there showing you how to stencil words onto a pillow cover. But today’s project is different: instead of just painting or stenciling a word on a pillow cover, you can put one of your favorite photos inside a piece of text, then print the design onto iron-on transfer paper and transfer it to a pillow cover (or tee shirt, or quilt block!)
So basically you start with an awesome photo, and end up with an awesome photo/text throw pillow.
It’s another way to personalize the decor in your home and showcase one of your favorite photos in a unique way.
Using iron-on transfer paper gives a pretty professional looking result. You can even see the texture of the fabric right through the letters:
I transferred the photo text to fabric and then sewed up my own pom pom pillow cover using the method found here, but you could skip the sewing and use a premade pillow cover instead.
Today’s tutorial has two parts: first I’ll show you how to create your own text with a photo inside using Adobe Photoshop Elements, then I’ll show you how to use iron on paper to transfer the design to a pillow cover (or any other fabric!) And if you don’t want to use one of your own photos for this project, you can download the design I created as a PDF further down in the post.
If you like doing projects with your photos, it’s totally worth investing in Photoshop Elements – I use it all the time. Thank you to Adobe for sponsoring this post. See my other projects using Photoshop Elements here.
How to Put a Photo Inside Text using Photoshop Elements
UPDATE: So Adobe has just released Photoshop Elements 15 which has a new Guided Edit which makes this process even easier! I’ll give you a quick rundown of how to do it in Photoshop Elements 15 right here. Scroll down if you’re using an earlier version for the original instructions.
Begin by opening a photo in Photoshop Elements 15 and clicking on Guided Edits mode at the top. Under that, you’ll click on Fun Edits. Down in the very bottom, you’ll see all the photos you have open. Click the one you want to use, then click on the Photo Text Guided Edit.
This will bring you to a new, blank window. Click the Type Tool in the right sidebar, and begin typing your text. You’ll see down at the bottom that you can change the font, size, leading, etc. Play around with it until you like the look of your text.
At this point, you can click on the Fit or Fill buttons in the right sidebar, which will make your text big enough to fill your entire photo.
Once you like how your text looks, you can click “Expert” at the top to continue editing in expert mode.
Instructions if you DO NOT have Photoshop Elements 15 yet:
NOTE: I always work in floating documents mode in Photoshop Elements, which allows me to have more than one document visible on the screen at once. If you’d like to turn this option on, go to Preferences and check “Allow Floating Documents in Expert Mode.”
Start by opening a new document in the expert mode of Photoshop Elements (File–>New–>Blank File). I wanted my letters to be as large as possible, but because we’ll be printing them on iron-on paper, the tallest my design can be is 11 inches, so I made my document 11×11 inches at 300 Pixels/Inch. I chose the text tool and typed the word LOVE, using all caps and splitting it into two different lines of text.
I changed the font to something nice and thick (Superclarendon Black) and adjusted the font size and leading until the word mostly filled up the document. Leading controls the space between the two lines of text.
At this point, I opened a pretty sunset photo.
Drag the photo onto the text document.
Now you’ll see three layers in the layers palette on the right: the background, the test, and the photo. Hover your mouse on the line between the text and photo. Hold down the alt (or option) key, and click on the line. That will “clip” the photo into the text. That means only the portions of the photo that overlap the text will be visible.
What’s cool is that you can still change the size of the photo, or grab it and move it around, so different portions of it are visible in the letters. Play with the placement of the photo until you like how the letters look.
For all versions of Photoshop Elements continue here:
In order to use iron-on transfer paper, we need a mirror image of the design, so go to Image–>Rotate–>Flip Horizontal.
Since I made the design bigger than an 8.5×11 piece of paper, we need to split it onto 2 pages to print. Open up two new documents that are each 8.5×11 inches. Choose the rectangular marquee tool and draw a rectangle around the left half of the design, making sure your rectangle doesn’t overlap any of the letters.
Hold down the command key and drag those two letters onto the first new document. Repeat with the other letters and drag them onto the second new document. These are the documents you’ll want to print onto the iron-on paper.
NOTE: if you make your design smaller than 8.5×11 originally you’ll be able to print the entire thing on one sheet of iron on paper. If you wanted your design even bigger, you could split it up into 4 documents and print onto 4 sheets of iron on paper.
If you’d like to use this design, you can download these two pages for free by clicking here. Print them at 100% or full size for a 16 or 18 inch pillow cover (mine is 16 inches).
How to Transfer a Printed Design onto a Pillow Cover
Ok, on to the photo transfer part! This is easy. I used Silhouette brand heat transfer material found here on Amazon. Print out the design on the blank side of the paper (not the grid side).
Optional: Cut out each letter. The transfer paper is clear, so you really don’t need to cut out each letter, but I think it gives a more professional result if you do. I did not cut the inside of the “O” out however – that’s totally not necessary.
Place the letters face down on your pillow cover (so they no longer look reversed), and make sure they are spaced evenly. Place a hot iron down on one of the letters and leave it there for about 30 seconds. Pick up the iron and move it as needed to iron on the rest of the letter. Continue picking up the iron and placing it down until all parts of the design have been heated for about 30 seconds. Let the design cool, and then it should be very easy to peel the back from each letter, leaving the design down on the fabric. If the backing doesn’t come off easily, iron it again. NOTE: once you have removed the backing, do not iron over the letters! They will stick to your iron. If you need to iron your completed pillow cover, use a warm – not hot – iron, and use a press cloth. The cover can be washed – just turn it inside out for best results.
Here’s a quick video showing the steps:
Remember, I transferred the letters onto fabric and made my own pillow cover using this tutorial, but you can use a premade cover if you like.
NOTE: if you use a different brand of iron-on paper, follow the directions for that brand.
Put a pillow form in your pillow cover, and your new photo & text throw pillow is ready to liven up your living room.
Be sure to take a look at Adobe Photoshop Elements if you don’t already own it – I use it nearly every day for editing photos and creating fun photo projects. See how easy it is to create coloring pages from a photo here, and learn how to make photo gift card holders here.